3am…

I don’t want to be awake right now.

Steroids do funny things. I’m on Day 4, & I know they’re doing what they need to do, but I’m tired…but jumpy…and honestly, emotional.

Her birthday is this week….it’s Tuesday. If you ask me specifically why it hits me differently every year, I couldn’t tell you. Everything was running along smoothly, except for, same as last year, when I realized that life was running along so quickly that I wouldn’t have time this week to take that “pause” to honor her….to reflect on her life….and I hate that.

I had to say the words last night out loud, “Hey, I get this. We need this. She was real, she was a person, and she is part of who we are, so even in this crazy, busy week, we make time.”

I don’t know how that is going to happen, but it IS going to happen.

We move along in life so quickly….we have our routines and schedules. We don’t take time to sit and reflect, so it feels unnatural, but it needs to be done. Pain and sadness need to be recognized, so they can be processed….so that they don’t get buried….because we all know they don’t STAY buried.

For me, if I don’t take this time now, these feelings and frustrations will manifest themselves in a couple of ways. I’ll cry or fly off of the handle about something innocuous. I’ll sulk or withdraw. I won’t sleep. I will carry around unnecessary guilt and shame. I’ll get sick. My family will suffer, & it will all be fallout from my failure to listen to that still, small voice that says, “Stop. Breathe. Remember.”

My daughter…my beautiful winter butterfly…would be 12 years old this week. We’d be going through “the change” that all of the women in my family went thru at 12, and OMG HOW WOULD WE DEAL?!?!? I imagine we’d be having arguments about social media & boys, & junior-high drama…there would be the introduction to makeup, or maybe a CCW class with Auntie, & Lord knows what else. We’d be starting the conversation about college, and I would be internally freaking out about how much information about LIFE, & HOW do parents maintain that balance? I think my Hannah & I would have a good relationship, & that I would be finding myself on my knees more than ever before as we enter the last year before TEENAGERDOME. 🙂

My little girl passed away before too much of her personality could be established, but there are some things I know for certain: She loved music. She loved songs with soul & excitement. 🙂 She smelled like Cheerios, & she knew her Daddy’s voice. She was a happy baby, which is amazing, considering the duress by which she came into the world…

And she made me into someone I’ve wanted to be, for as long as I can remember: She made me a Mom.

I will always, always be grateful to God for blessing us with her. I will always be grateful for our 29 days on this earth together, & I have absolutely no regrets. We had a gift that changed the course of our lives, our marriage, & our faith, & we are eternally impacted by 29 days with the most precious princess this world has ever seen.

I love that our journey with Hannah isn’t over. I love knowing that because of Jesus, it’s only on “pause,” until we are together in eternity. I love that He gives us that level of hope, and that He takes our despair & turns it into a beautiful anticipation of what is to come….

Happy birthday, Hannah Elizabeth Gayle Cooley. You’ve made my world more amazing and beautiful, just because I had the chance to call you mine.

3am isn’t so bad, after all.

The Inconvenience of Healthcare AKA, Making a Big Deal out of Nothing At All

*Never doubt my love of Air Supply.
**Back Story: If you’re new to the blog, I was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer in 2015. I had a tumor that wrapped around my throat and went into my mediastinum; the cancer broke through the capsule of the tumor and went into my lymph nodes. I had a total thyroidectomy (TT) in 2015, and have been on thyroid replacement hormones (TRH) since then (Armour Thyroid). After firing my first set of doctors (oncology, ENT, and endocrinologist–the oncologist didn’t want to see me back for any follow-up care for a year, which my PCP didn’t appreciate; the surgeon became out of my insurance network; the endocrinologist miscommunicated a medication dosage to her staff, and almost killed me), I wound up switching all of my cancer-related care to Barnes Jewish Hospital’s Siteman Cancer Center, where I’ve remained since 2016.
Surgeon: “You need to visit the oncologist for updated testing; it’s been 2 years, so you’re due.”
Oncology Nurse: “Please come in for a consultation!”
Me: Has a day off, arranges schedule accordingly (I work 40 hours a week, and have a 45-minute commute each way. I stay busy. For this appointment, I was going to have my son with me, but whatever–we’d make it work).
Oncology Nurse (2 days before the scheduled consultation): “Oh, no, we don’t want to see you for a consultation until you get all of these tests, which will take an entire week to accomplish. Let’s get this scheduled.” This testing involves 2 days of injections, plus one day of radiation (tracer dose), plus 1 day off (because I can’t be around pregnant people), and then a day of labs and a full-body scan….which didn’t work on me, the last time I did it, and I wound up having to have a very expensive PET scan….so I was trepidatious, to say the least.
Me: Arranges appropriate time off of work; arranges childcare. Gets everything scheduled and gets everything approved through office (which couldn’t come at a worse time, given my current workload). Gets emotionally prepared to be a pincushion for a week. Informs family of process to come, and struggles with ensuing anxiety.
Oncology Nurse: “Oh, no, wait, we don’t want to do any of this testing until we have a consultation scheduled.”
Me: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?!?!?!?!?” LOSES MY TEMPER on highly-degreed individuals who have obviously forgotten that I AM A HUMAN, and I am more than the stupid disease that has been hanging over my head for 3 years!!!!! “Could you NOT have decided to do the consultation first, like we ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED, before putting me through all of the hassle to put a very busy life on hold for a week? Could you maybe have REVIEWED A CHART and a medical history, and REMEMBERED a few key details?!?!?! Who decided this?!?  Who decided to do one thing, then another, and then the first thing, after I already rearranged my life?!?!?! The Nurse Practitioner? Can I speak to her?!?!?!” She takes a message, and says the NP will call me back.
Me (super-mad): Calls surgeon who sent me back to oncology in the first place; gets favorite nurse on the phone. “Lisa? Can you help me? Can you talk to them and figure out the why in what the heck they’re doing, since your MD sent me back to that office in the first place?!?!?” She agrees to call them; she was out of the office when I was told to make the oncology appointment, and she’s aggravated that the MD forgot to explain everything to her. She’s been amazing. She can’t help what happens next.
Oncology Nurse Practitioner (now I’ve moved up the chain of command; my phone was IN MY HAND and went to voicemail, and this is what I got): “Mrs. Cooley, the insurance company won’t cover any of the testing until you’ve had a consultation.”
THEN WHY DID THEY CANCEL THE ONE I HAD SCHEDULED IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!!!!!!!!
I am so sick and tired of the medical BS that doctors put people through, because somehow, in all of this, they forget that we are individuals who put our actual lives on hold to deal with these things that come from out of nowhere to sideline us and our families!!!!! It’s been 12 hours since my conversation with oncology, and I’m STILL mad. It’s an endless cycle of bad communication, and it’s a small wonder that insurance companies are now basically practicing medicine without licenses in order to dictate the course of care/medical authorizations. IF THE DOCTORS THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CARE THAT AFFECTS THE QUALITY OF OUR LIFE CANNOT EFFECTIVELY COMMUNICATE WITH EITHER THEMSELVES OR WITH THEIR PATIENTS, what hope do we have for our medical well-being?!?!
CRO_Health_CROH_May_Doctor_Office_Confusion_03-15
I don’t think it’s too much to ask, for a doctor to review at the very least, a list of the patient’s diagnoses before they walk into a room for a consultation or order a test…but guess what? They’re so over-scheduled that they don’t have time. BUT, they’re so over-scheduled, because the insurance contracts reduce their allowed amounts to the point that in spite of popular opinion, doctors and hospitals generally make just enough money to make a profit, or even to barely meet costs. My orthopedic surgeon–you know, the woman who was responsible for cutting my feet open and rearranging the tendons so that I could relearn how to walk properly–was allowed maybe 10 minutes for each visit (actually, I think it was 4 minutes) by her overseeing medical group. 4-10 minutes, to make sure that surgery is necessary, that 4″ of incisions are healing properly (mine didn’t), to decide what steps need to be taken–she has 4-10 minutes to make decisions that will affect me for the rest of my life. Me, and the 50-90 other patients that she’ll see in a day.  Fortunately for me, my ortho was AMAZING, and her staff was phenomenal….not every MD is as dedicated, and not every MD can handle the workload they’re assigned (patients, documentation, insurance reviews–it’s more than the average patient understands).
ARE THEY KIDDING US?!?!?!? Are they kidding the doctors? They didn’t sign up for this; they signed up to help people, not to treat them like a cattle call.
But there they are, making decisions, saving lives, and leaving a trail of confusion and frustration in their wake…
At this point, I’m not sure what’s more frustrating—the doctors, the insurance companies, or the diseases that exist in the first place.
I was whining on the phone to my mother last night (God love her, for listening to me), and she pointed out (very gently) that since my thyroid was ripped out, my ability to process my emotions has been greatly affected. I detest admitting that she is correct, but it’s true. I struggle with being angrier when I’m mad, with being deeply depressed when I’m sad. There’s no happy medium with my emotions, and it makes things much more difficult. There are times when I’ve wondered if I’m straight-up bipolar, or on the spectrum, or if I’m just permanently screwed up from all of this. Maybe it’s PTSD on steroids, or maybe I’m just a terrible person. I don’t think it’s normal for people to stew on things like I do, or to have the internal (and sometimes external) monologues that I have to sort things out. I don’t want to admit that I’ve changed, but it’s true: I’m different.
I don’t know if I’m more honest, or if I’m just, frankly, more of a bitch. I don’t know if I’m more unfiltered (because I don’t have the patience to wrap things in snowflakes for the general public), or if the more choleric side to my personality has somehow mutated, but what I do know is that I am sick and tired of the hamster-wheel that a chronic illness put me on.
index
I like people less. I have less patience for people. I like the fact that I sit in an office by myself, because I don’t think I can deal with the anxiety and stress that dealing with the public puts me through. I don’t like getting out of my familiar, and I don’t want to do it. When doctors lay out a course of treatment or protocol, I will latch onto that, and Type-A get it scheduled, and God-help-you if you get in the way of MY PLAN.
On the plus side, since my whole cancer debacle, at least you know when you ask me a question, you will get the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, once I’ve warmed up to you and feel like I can trust you with the unfiltered version of me. That takes a while–I’m not as easy of a person to get to know as one would think at first.
I think the thing I’m the angriest about is that I have an incredible amount of anxiety any time I have to deal with the oncology department. I can’t explain it or make it go away; just knowing I have to go back there seems to undo me, and I had just gotten it into my brain that this was actually happening again. Surely I am not the only person in the world who deals with this?!?!?  I had just made peace with it all, and had made my plans accordingly; as aforementioned, I do NOT like it when my PLAN gets messed up or taken out of order, LOL. That’s not doing me any favors in motherhood, let me tell ya’. Am I crazy for being this aggravated about this one instance of medical miscommunication?!? Or should we all get this mad, and maybe make something happen from it?
I know the “right” things to say, here: “God has a plan.” “This will all get worked out.” “Trust Him with your anger.” “Be angry, but don’t sin (stop swearing!).” “Stop ranting (that’s part of my monologue-ing)”. “It’s still the good kind of cancer, right? Be grateful!” Blahbaty-blah-blah. And yes, I’m praying about it..sort of. It’s one of those throw-up-your-hands-and-yell/pray kind of prayers. 🙂 I do that a lot lately.
Healthcare in this country has got to get figured out. I consider myself to be a pretty informed patient after almost 20 years of working in this industry, and if this kind of confusion in healthcare is “normal,” WHAT IN THE WORLD is going on? What have we come to?!? And what are we paying for?!?!?!?!?

Part 4: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “*But it Wouldn’t Be Nothin’….Without a Woman or a Girl.”

*I couldn’t just mention that song in my last blog without finishing the line in this one, right?

FB_IMG_1538356264257(1)

Natural-Order-of-The-Family

Hey, look at that! The Pesky Umbrella Graphic got an upgrade!!! Well, it may have brighter colors and a few changes in the wording, but hey, guess what?

It’s still missing the mark.

Before I jump into all of that, though, let’s recap:

  1. The intro: His Banner Over Me is Love (AKA, “I am NEVER on the bottom of the totem pole”)
  2. Part 2: “Married/Single: There’s a Place for You
  3. Part 3: “This is a Man’s World

And after weeks (maybe months) of sitting on it, I think I’m finally ready to write the part of this series that’s the most difficult to me: “Redefining the Role of a Woman.”

I want to state again very clearly before I tackle this topic that I am NOT a feminist. You won’t find me wearing a “P” hat, burning my bra and screaming about the patriarchy (okay, you MIGHT find me burning my bra, let’s be real here). You will find me, however, more than willing to engage in discussions about respect and expectations, and I think that’s really at the crux of it all. People want to be respected, and treated well. No one wants to be treated as “less than” for any reason, especially if it’s because of facts that are out of their control. I recently blogged about why I’m grateful for Title IX training in my place of work, and why I think Christians have failed in getting and staying educated in such matters. Sexual harassment and improprieties stem from an overall lack of respect for another individual (& from an overdeveloped sense of entitlement & lack of humility). Last January, I blogged about hoping for a day when we rise up and instead of saying, #MeToo, we say, #IAm. What if we went from being victims and from being victimized, to being a people that are aware of the great Love with which we are created? A people that recognize that greatness in each other, and respect it? It would be the death of the #TimesUp movement, because the time for improprieties and inappropriate behaviors would TRULY be “Up.”

More than just respect, however, comes a need for people to seek God and ask Him the question, “Who do You say I am?” When we start…just to start…to ask Him that question and wrap our heads and our hearts around His response, we find ourselves shell-shocked by GRACE.

A leader in our Church told us we needed to ask God that question a few weeks ago. Since he made that statement, there has been a seismic shift in our church body that we’re all reeling from. We’re all processing, and a lot of people have been deeply wounded by the actions of another…yet in the midst of that, the question remains: “We are wounded. We’re bloody on the battlefield, God, but who do You say we are?”

He looks back at all of us, and His answer is the same: “You Are My Beloved.”

His banner over us as a corporate body, and as individual people, is still, in the midst of it all, Love.

When we look at each other the way HE looks at us, what choice do we have but to treat each other with grace and forgiveness? With love and respect? And in that treatment, where is there room for inequality or hierarchies?

I’m not a feminist. I’m an equalist. We are different in our roles and our responsibilities, but we are not worth more or higher than another. The only One that’s above any of us is Jesus. He’s the only One Who is worthy!

When we look at this Pesky Umbrella Graphic, it really does defy logic. It doesn’t make any sense!! WHAT’S HOLDING UP THE UMBRELLA, PEOPLE?!? It requires a central line and support pieces. What’s that supposed to be, in this graphic? IT’S NOT DEFINED. Whoops. There’s an artist somewhere who’d flat-out failed.

When I wrote the blog on them role of the husband in the household, I didn’t have the updated version of the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (the PUG) to work off of. I am not going to tackle the role of children in thein the household at this time; that may come later. For now, I am sticking to husbands & wives.

For the man, it states that role of the husband is to:

  1. To Protect the Family
  2. To Provide for the Family
  3. To Lead the Family.

That’s similar enough to the older version of the PUG that I’m not going to recap it for the sake of comparison. You can check out the link that’s listed above if you want the breakdown. I’m focusing on women in this blog.

The PUG graphic is basing itself on Ephesians 5. The older version of the PUG states that the role of a woman is:

  1. To Be a Helper to the Husband
  2. Raise Godly Children
  3. Submit to Husband’s Authority

The newer version of the PUG states that the role of the woman is:

  1. To Comfort
  2. To Teach
  3. To Nurture

I have to say, the older version of the PUG makes the hair on my arms stand up, and in fact, by omission, so does the newer version. This kind of thinking–this hierarchical system–is what belittles women and devalues their contributions to the household. It creates a system that opens doors to abuse and to second-guessing the unique roles that God designed us as women to take on.

I did a lot of thinking and questioning regarding this topic. I mean, the Word is the Word, right?

Ephesians 5–let’s take a look at it, because it’s really what this whole hierarchical system comes from:

Wives and Husbands

21 Honor Christ and put others first. 22 A wife should put her husband first, as she does the Lord. 23 A husband is the head of his wife, as Christ is the head and the Savior of the church, which is his own body. 24 Wives should always put their husbands first, as the church puts Christ first.
25 A husband should love his wife as much as Christ loved the church and gave his life for it. 26 He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water. 27 Christ did this, so that he would have a glorious and holy church, without faults or spots or wrinkles or any other flaws.
28 In the same way, a husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself. A husband who loves his wife shows that he loves himself. 29 None of us hate our own bodies. We provide for them and take good care of them, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are each part of his body. 31 As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church. 33 So each husband should love his wife as much as he loves himself, and each wife should respect her husband.

I can’t, and I won’t, argue with the Word of God. My issues are not with what the Bible says. My issue is how it’s been interpreted, and how that interpretation has been twisted to manipulate women in particular. I want to be very, VERY clear, once again, that I AM NOT ARGUING WITH THE WORD OF GOD. Even when it uses words that rankle me in today’s retaliatory feminist construct, I’m not disputing it. I’m disputing the misinterpretation. Women were NEVER meant to be on the bottom of anyone’s list. Period.

The old PUG states that we are to “be a helper” to our husband, while the new PUG says we’re to be a “comfort.” I am not going to deny that we have a job to be a helper to our husband….but we share that responsibility. He is our helper, we are his helper. We are co-helpmates. It may be something as simple as, “I’m going to load the dishwasher; you can put the dishes away,” or something as complex as, “I’m confused as to my role in the church and I don’t understand what God is doing right now; would you listen to me and help me sort this out and get some focus?” When you have a relationship where there are medical issues, where you can’t keep up with what you need to get done, your spouse has to jump in and help you. Marriage is not about one person leaning on the other all of the time. Marriage is about two people leaning on Jesus, and working together for His common goal, whatever that looks like. It’s not co-dependent; it’s two independent people recognizing their weaknesses and learning the strengths that God put in the other to make the family work together for His purposes!

To be honest, I’m not as bothered by the new PUG stating that it’s our role to be a “comfort” as I am by the old PUG stating that it’s our job to be “a helper,” because I can see how one would assume that we as women take on that role of being a “comforter.” I get it, even though I know it doesn’t apply to all (having a uterus does not mean one is automatically a naturally-comforting person). I’m more bothered at the inequality of the old PUG stating ONLY for the women, is it a job to be a helper. Genesis 2:18 states that from the very beginning of Creation, God recognized that Man was not meant to be alone, and that he needed a helper “fit” for him. We’re designed to work together. One piece of a puzzle does not paint a picture; it takes pieces fitting together to make the whole scene come to life!

The second part of the PUG states that the role for women is to “raise the children,” or in the new PUG, “to teach.”

Please allow me a second to get up on my soapbox, & turn up my microphone so I can Bless God’s People.

STOP. DEMEANING. FATHERS. BY. ASSIGNING. GENDER ROLES. TO PARENTING.

It is NOT the role of the woman to raise the children all by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (how many exclamation points can I add without it becoming obnoxious?)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This goes back to the blog about the role of a man, and the things I said about the cyclical treatment of women by men, and of men by women.

We love our spouses. We set the example. We teach inherent sexism by making it out as though only one gender can be responsible for certain things in the household. By saying that women are responsible for raising the children, we strip men of their contributions and their value in the parenting process, thus teaching our boys how to be absentee/uninvolved dads, and our daughters to never learn to respect and value a man’s worth in the home outside of his wallet.

I married a man who is an EXCELLENT father to our son. He does it without pause or resentment; never once have I heard him say, “You do it, that’s a woman-thing”. He loves that little boy with his entire heart, & he’s proud to be for him what he didn’t have in his own life. We each contribute toward the raising of our child, for better or for worse. We don’t always succeed, but we’re trying, and we’re doing it as a joint effort.
If the role of a woman is to be a comfort, and thereby, set the stage for a child’s relationship with the Holy Spirit, than that reiterates that a father & his relationship with his child sets the stage for that child’s relationship with God the Father.

It is NOT the job of a woman alone to teach their child.

We teach our children by how we treat each other, together, and by how we individually treat them in their role in our household.

The link above is to a blog that a man wrote in the Washington Post about the whole, “It’s not babysitting if it’s your kid” movement.

1349918759927_8339632

This picture infuriates me. Two people create a child. Two. Society has allowed women to take on the roles of both mother and father, and women have succeeded. We CAN do it all…but it’s at a tremendous sacrifice, and a very, very high price. It’s not the way it was designed to be. God made us to be together to raise our children…and two people can be together in a household, but only one who will raise the child. It’s a terrible imbalance that has spiritual, physical, and mental consequences.

Single mothers are amazing, strong, ferocious women that have taken on the collective responsibilities of the household. They’re the spiritual, physical, and financial leaders of their houses, and THEY ARE EXHAUSTED. But THEY. DON’T. STOP.

Because they can’t.

And in caring for their children to the best of their abilities, they sacrifice so much of their hearts and minds, only for the Church to come in and constantly remind them of why they’re just not good enough.

That’s crap.

The Church is designed to be a supply house, both physically and spiritually, for the widow and the orphan, and women that are single parents are women that have been abandoned by their helpmate (or have had to abandon their helpmate), so I believe they more than qualify. We’re to be a place of open hearts and arms for these women, yet far too often, all we are is a house of judgement. That’s junk, and we’ve missed the mark. We need to support single mothers in such a way that they are spiritually sustained to fill both roles of leadership in their household, not to drain them by pharisaical false theology.

There was a set of books that were so popular in the 90’s & early 2000’s, called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The book was a broad-spectrum definer of why women and men think in such different ways from each other, and I find myself referencing it when I can’t figure out the Why in David’s DO. In the book, women are considered to be the broad-spectrum thinkers, where men are the ones with a singular focus. We branch out, while they go in for the on-site kill. They’re the hunters, we’re the gatherers–caveman stuff. I see these differences in my husband and I, to perfectly answer the book’s stereotypes (and I’m normally not a huge fan of stereotypes). 🙂 I will converse about an issue for DAYS. David will make his point once, and be done with it (and be frustrated with me, because I’M NOT FINISHED!!!!!). He will go to the grocery store and get milk and bread, while I will go in and get $200 worth of food for the month, without a list, but with an entire calendar in hand. Neither of us is wrong–we both needed groceries. He’s just got a completely different way of thinking than I do, but it still works. Again, we are made to fit together, to help each other, & to balance each other. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) our different ways of thinking frustrate us to no end, but it’s all part of the process of coming together as a team.

Single mothers have to have both sets of brains–they have to be both the hunter and the gatherer, the person of a single focus, but also the broad-spectrum thinker. That kind of duality is exhausting. The Church should be an oasis to challenge the spirit, but to also allow the mind to rest. The single mother should find no greater refuge than the church, and no greater resource to help her find her value as a woman, than in the church.

The third part of the PUG states that our role as women is to “submit to the husband’s authority” in the old graphic, or to “nurture” in the new graphic. Um…okay…..here we go….

When you nurture a plant, you feed it, you water it, you give it sunlight, and you give it the tools it needs to be healthy. “Nurture” is one of those words that evokes mental images of softness and of comfort, words that are not typically associated with men. We think of a mother nurturing their child from the womb and throughout life; our very physical body was made to nurture our children…but we weren’t made to do it alone. Mothers and Fathers work together to create a nurturing environment for their children. We need both the softness and the encouragement, as well as the firmness and the defined boundaries. I don’t think that just a mother, or just a father, should be one of those things at all times. I will say that in both of these graphics, giving the “duties” of nurturing to the woman makes the most sense to me, and it’s the least-irritating concept under the umbrella (ella. Ella. A. A. A.). I get that. It works. I’m not mad at it. The biggest, baddest, most aggravating concept on this entire umbrella (besides the fact that the old graphic puts women at the bottom of the patriarchal totem pole) is that word, “SUBMIT.”

When I hear the words, “submit!” I always hear it with an exclamation point, followed by an internal gif of an old white guy banging a judge’s gavel. The word “submission” has such a negative context; it’s because it’s been abused and misused so badly. I think it’s a word that’s been destroyed in the wake of misappropriation, and as Christians, we need to correct our interpretation and pull it back from this dictatorship-mentality that we have. If my entire series of redefining the Christian family does one thing, my hope is that it succeeds in changing perspectives on the word, “submit.”

Submission was never meant to be taken as a boot on the chest of women, holding us down or stripping us of our will. It was never meant as a constricting thing, never meant to confine us or to force us to do anything we didn’t have a desire to do or to be a part of. Submission is not abuse.

Say it again for the people in the back of the room: SUBMISSION IS NOT ABUSE.

We are not dogs, that we should roll over and expose our weaknesses for men to exploit. We are not victims, and they are not our captors.

We are not weak, that we should be parasites off of the strength of men because we lack the capacity to do it ourselves.

We are not at their beck and call, either in the boardroom or the bedroom, and we are not “less than.”

Back to Ephesians 5:24–“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husband as you do to the Lord.”

And there it is….”as you do to the Lord.”

There is quite a bit of instruction in this chapter; Paul runs through a list that’s pretty long:

  1. Do imitate God
  2. Do walk in love (some translations say, “Let Love be your Guide.” I like that.)
  3. Don’t be perverted or inappropriate
  4. Do give thanks.
  5. Don’t be deceived
  6. Do learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
  7. Do not participate in shady deals, but instead, expose them.
  8. Do make the most of your time, and walk in integrity.
  9. Do seek God’s Will
  10. Don’t waste time by being drunks
  11. Do be filled with the Holy Spirit and focus on worship
  12. Do submit to one another
  13. Wives, submit to husbands as you do unto the Lord
  14. Husbands, love your wives
  15. Church, submit to Christ
  16. Wives, respect your husbands

Of course, you can get super-exegetical and break all of this down, but that’s a volume. I’m focusing on those last 5 things. I can break down this section verse-by-verse and tell you the ways it’s been used to malign women. I think every one of us can think of a way that women have been shamed by the concept of submission. I think we can all see ways these verses have been misinterpreted….but look at the verses through the filter of that opening line. “Let Love be your guide.”

Working in optometry, I’ve learned the huge change that can come over someone when they get a properly-measured pair of eyeglasses. The entire world changes!

luna

We’re to look at the world through the love of Jesus. We’re to read the Bible through lenses of the Love of Jesus–not through lenses that are clouded by misinterpretations and oppression. When we as women read these verses in particular, we need to stop and put on those lenses of the love of the Lord. We need to read them as though He were saying them to us, to our face. How would Jesus speak these things to us?

As women, we have a responsibility to seek Jesus first and foremost. We have a responsibility to establish that relationship on our own, before we go looking to another to establish it for us. Our relationship with our husband should strengthen our relationship with Jesus, but our relationship with Him cannot be dependent on our relationship with him. Get it?

If only we could undo 2,000 years of negative connotations for that word…

When you love Jesus, you trust Him. And when you trust Him, you allow Him to direct your life. That’s submission. That’s what He wants.

He doesn’t want to bruise us, or to crush our spirits. Jesus wants the absolute best for us, which doesn’t always line up to what WE think is His best, so we have to submit our will to His. It can be a difficult process, but it’s SO worth it in the end!

Our husbands have a responsibility to love Jesus, first and foremost. They’re human; they’re flawed, and they fail. It doesn’t say they have to be perfect. They just have to maintain that heart that remains focused on Him. When they do that, they exhibit His character. When WE do that as women, WE exhibit His character.

We move in harmony with the will of God when we’re both focused on serving Him.

When we love Jesus, and we love each other, we each want God’s absolute best for the other person. We are willing to humble ourselves and to seek God’s will; we put our own egos aside and we go before God as a unified household. My husband is to love me as Christ loves the Church–that’s that Song of Solomon love, that love that goes before us and behind us. That’s the love that declares to the enemy that I am his, and he is mine, and you won’t come against our marriage or our household.

It isn’t easy for me to submit, & I can’t do it on my own. It’s not easy for me to say that word. I don’t like that word–“I am Woman, hear me roar!!–but submission is not a sign of weakness or failure.

Submission doesn’t mean that I go blindly, or that I haven’t put up an argument or asked my husband to explain himself. I’m not expected to acquiesce in obsequiousness. I’m not a blow-up doll, and God didn’t create us as women to be such. GOD MADE US AS WOMEN IN HIS IMAGE, and He loves how we think and work and function!!!! He made us to communicate the way we communicate, with reason and with intelligence for a PURPOSE! He thinks our brains are beautiful, and He loves us! He doesn’t expect us to suppress that in marriage—He expects it to improve as “iron sharpening iron!!!!!!” (Have you ever seen iron sharpen iron? It’s a really messy process.)!

It doesn’t mean that he disrespects me and doesn’t hear me out. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t miss the mark (or that I don’t miss the mark). It does mean, though, that there is grace.

Submission takes respect, grace, prayer, and support, from both parties in a marriage. We have to respect each other. We have to give each other grace. We have to pray for each other and with each other, and we have to support the decisions that are made. Without support, a structure crumbles.

When it comes down to it, though, biblically, I have to submit to the decisions my husband makes. I don’t always go quietly; in a previous blog, I discussed how during one season, it took me over a YEAR to finally get on the same page as David. In walking that out, though, I found out about the blessings that can finally come when two praying people stand together in unity. It’s still hard, but at least I can appreciate the process, & after that last experience, I’ve learned some lessons.

Before anything in Ephesians is broken down into focusing on marriage, we’re to submit to ONE ANOTHER. In the English Standard Version, it almost uses the words “respect” and “submit” interchangeably, which I love (Ephesians 5:33, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband”). When you respect someone, you submit yourself to their expertise. You trust them, and you trust that you can learn from them–how cool is that? We trust that they have something to say, and they trust that WE have something to say, so we listen to each other! We’re to be respectful and kind to each other (I Pet. 3:15)–Remember that when these chapters were written, they weren’t separated into topics. They were letters written to people groups. We broke these things up in our English translations, and in doing so, put our own spin and focus onto key verses that may not have been intended by the original authors. So, when you read Ephesians 5, read it straight through, without pausing for sections, and think about how it goes.

Submission is a requirement for a successful family dynamic, but that doesn’t mean everything looks like that totem pole/umbrella graphic. Just the visual of that graphic–placing women on the lowest rung?!?!–causes dissonnance and the devaluing of the roles we each play in our household. We’re so beautifully meant to intertwine and to work together for the glory of God…everything is for His elevation, not for our humiliation. I want to rethink this graphic, and take it completely out of the concept of a hierarchy.

The closest thing I can liken it to is a planetary orbit. I love how God gives us the best images of His personality in nature!!!!

The planets orbit around the sun, right? And each planet has their own course, with their own moons–do you see where this is going?

These planets all have different things pulling on them. Magnetic pulls, centrifugal forces, etc., all take part in keeping the planets on the course they’re designed to be on. If one planet decided that it didn’t want to stay the course, the entire solar system would be effected, and it would be cataclysmic. I think instead of a hierarchy, perhaps we should look at biblical family design like it’s own little Solar System spinning around Jesus. When one person stops seeking God, and stops focusing on Him, it affects the paths of the other planets.

I don’t like the hierarchical illustration. It reeks of manipulation. I don’t for a second believe it was ever meant to be taken as men are over, or are more important than women, but the Church has interpreted it that way for years. It’s not to be read in arrogance, but instead, in humility and grace. When you read Ephesians 5 in context, you see that it’s a manual for a life of integrity, respect, and kindness, . There’s no pride in the entire chapter. Men set the example of submission for women, by submitting to Jesus. Women set the example of submission by respecting their husbands & by submitting to Jesus, and we all respect each other. Our kids grow up in an atmosphere of SERVICE—what?!? It sounds a little utopian, but imagine how the world would be if we all acted it out?!?

Is that crazy?

In Galatians, the Bible says there is “neither Jew, nor Gentile; nor slave, nor free; nor is there male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I think it’s fitting that the verse comes in the middle of a chapter that focuses on deception and of being locked in custody. There is tremendous freedom that comes when we put on those lenses of grace, and understand that God sees every single one of us as equal to another, regardless of gender or societal position. We’re all on the same page, at the same level, and we all have the same goal: To love and to serve Jesus with humility and grace…to seek Him first. That is the very definition of what I mean when I say that I am not a feminist. I am an equalist. Every man has a role. Every woman has a role. Those roles together, centered around the mission that Jesus gives each and every one of us, is our entire Focus. There is no competition. There is no struggling for position. There is only focusing on the Lord, and uplifting each other for that purpose.

Ditch the umbrella graphic. Forget the totem pole concept of putting women at the bottom of the list. We all have a voice, and we all have a role in the Kingdom of God. We’ve been created by a God Who loves us so much….Who appreciates us as individuals, and as part of His Body of believers. Men and women are together the Bride of Christ, and He loves us with an immeasurable grace. As Christians, we have no other option but to love each other to the best of our abilities, with grace and with respect to the value our Creator puts on each of us.

A Time To Mourn…AKA, “Speaking Christianese Never Made A Heart Heal Faster”

You can’t slap a Bible-verse Band-Aid over a severed limb and expect the bleeding to stop.
Healing is a PROCESS–it’s not instantaneous, and it isn’t pretty. Sometimes, we have to take in the full extent of the injury or the loss before healing can even begin. Things take time to process..realizations and understandings come in phases, and we don’t get it all at once, therefore, we can’t process it all at once.
The thing about Jesus, though, is that He meets us where we are in the process. Day by day, hour by hour, He meets us, and He welcomes our honesty. We don’t have to put a smile on our faces and fake it with Him; it’s useless, anyways. No one knows us better, so why do we try to act like we’re fine? There is no weakness in the truth.
Things happen in our lives that reshape every perspective or opinion that we’ve held, but our foundation remains the same. Jesus doesn’t change. His Word says there is “a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” It doesn’t mean that we speed through one to get to the other…it means there is a TIME for each process. It doesn’t mean we avoid one and focus on the other; it means that we endure one and we know we have a hope for the other.
Autumn is always a sensitive time of the year for me. It’s not a time of falling back into those initial days of the heaviest of grieving processes, but it is a time of respecting that you know what? Certain days are going to affect me more than others.  I’ve had a few conversations lately that have reminded me that grief, for any reason, is grief, and it has a process that must be respected.  I’m reminded of a conversation that I’ve referenced  before, but I feel like I need to go back to it:
Around 2 weeks after my daughter passed away, David & I finally made our way back into church. While there, I was having a noticeably difficult time (I suck at trying not to cry), and I went to sit in the lobby. A prominent woman in the church came up to me and hugged me, and said, “Are you better, now?”
I nearly slapped her.
I don’t remember what I said back to her, but the conversation has stuck in my brain as indicative of how Christians handle the process of grieving.
We. Are. Terrible. At. Grief.
It makes sense. I mean, c’mon, every worship song we sing focuses on joy and peace and happiness and glory and awesome and blahblahblahblabityblah. It’s all true. We serve an amazing, glorious, fantastic Lord Who loves us, so what’s not to celebrate?
We have this extremely arrogant tendency to coat our sorrows in Bible Verses, like the paper they’re printed on is going to magically paper-mache a lead balloon and make it float.
You can throw Bible verses at someone all day long, and yes–there IS life in the Word. However, read the room–don’t throw Scripture at a starving man. Feed him first, then tell him about Jesus. Acknowledge the broken heart (yours or someone else’s) with compassion and empathy, not with counter-attacks and guilt-inducing Christianese.
We’re so programmed to put on that joy that we forget that true joy is there, in the grieving process itself. We don’t have to bypass grief to hang onto joy. Joy is there, in the darkest of times, providing the guiding line to lead us out of the cave of heaviness and depression. Joy doesn’t always mean that we smile and dance…joy sometimes means that we lean into the comfort of our Savior, and that we know He is PRESENT in all things.
In the darkest days of my life, I can look back and see that silver thread of joy that is woven through the tapestry. I can see it through the rage; I can see it through the tears. I can see it becoming ever brighter as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and I can see it with me even now as I deal with personal battles. Joy is not always expressed as laughter. Joy is sometimes a gentle strength that shows up as an anchor in the waves that want to drown you.
The Fruits of the Spirit (I’ve always thought of that as a funny way to word those characteristics. And now the song is in my head. GAH!!) work together in our lives in many, many ways, but in times of grief or crisis, they really shine the brightest if we let them. The love of Jesus pours over us, capturing every tear we cry. His joy stands firm in the face of sadness that wants to encompass us. His Peace–peace is so, so hard to come by in a crisis, but it’s there. Sometimes it comes when you’ve cried your last tear, and you’re exhausted and can do nothing but sleep. Sometimes it comes when you look at someone’s face that you know understands you, and you see their expression and that they “get you.” Their compassion and empathy give you the peace of understanding without words–that’s huge.
His patience–He is patient with our grieving process, and He gives us permission to take our time. He is kind–Jesus doesn’t get angry with us for being sad or broken. He’s good–He wants us to bring our pain to Him, and He loves our faith. He loves that we believe in Him enough to bring Him our burdens…
He is gentle…He doesn’t rush in to distract us from dealing with our crises, but He loves us like a Father.
The world takes us from drama to drama at an alarming pace. We stay in permanent crisis mode, or in a permanently-hyper-emotional state. The church tries to tell us we should focus on being frenetically joyful all the time, while the world tells us we should be in full-blown Jersey-Shore Drama Mode all of the time (I’ve never actually seen the show, but I don’t think I have to).
Life is somewhere in the middle.
The shortest verse in the Bible acknowledges that Jesus Himself cried when His friend died, even though He knew He was about to raise His friend back to life again. He still grieved, even though He had that hope and that expectation. Why?
Because He was fully God, but also fully Man, and He felt the grief and the loss, even in the eyes of Hope.
We are allowed to weep for a time (“How long?” I don’t know. Ask the person who’s had their arm cut off, how long it takes to get used to not having an arm…to using a prosthesis….to having phantom nerve pains, or physical therapy, or re-learning how to tie their shoes. That’s how long.).
We are allowed our time to mourn (“How deeply?” I don’t know. Hobart Vann once said to me that I would know I was through the healing process of losing my daughter when I could talk about it without crying. That took a while, and it took me a while to understand what he meant and why that was so important. You have to be able to tell the story and point it back to the love of Jesus. It might seem impossible, at first, but it can be done, and when you can do it and you mean it wholeheartedly, you can do it with joy. That takes a while).
And one day…maybe nearer or farther away than we can comprehend…we will see our way back to our time to dance.

Annual Title IX Training, AKA, Where Bible College Failed

I work for a University. It’s not hard to figure out which one; I draw very little attention to where I work, because, DUH, public forum. I like where I work. It’s a very different world from where I grew up, and how I grew up; it’s a very different way of functioning from what I’m used to, and I’m very grateful that I have the opportunity to be here. It’s time for our Annual Title IX Training, and I have a few things to get out of my system…

I grew up in a small town (no stoplights!), and I graduated from a small, private school (in a class of 6 people, I was the valedictorian!). When I went to college, I went to my third- or fourth-string pick of a Bible college in Florissant, Missouri, not too far from where I’m currently employed.

I still don’t know why I wound up there. Honestly, it was down to the wire to make a college decision, and my choice of a school in Tennessee was firmly shot down, as was my choice of a school in Webster Groves, so here I was, in this tiny, little Bible college at 17, feeling out of place and completely on my own.

I grew up in a charismatic church, and was partially sold on my Bible college by a man who told me the school was “non-denominational.” This was, in fact, technically true…but not practically true. Sure, there wasn’t a governing body or a synod, but the Bible college was full of people from what’s called the Independent Christian Church, which I was unfamiliar with.  The basic theology was the same amongst 70-80% of my peers and professors, which was fine at first, but the longer I was there, the more it rankled me. Even as I went on to represent the school for over 3 years in various events and committees, the cracks in the foundation became wide-spread faults, and by the time my academic career ended with the school, I was in counseling as a devastated, spiritually-void trainwreck.

I was a shell of who I’d been just 4 years earlier.

As a freshman, I’d been excited to learn new things, and try out new clubs, meet new friends, and start a life outside of Franklin County. I sang, I taught Sunday School, I received decent grades, and even though I lost 1 scholarship my freshman year, I made up for it with 4 different scholarships over the next 3 years. I pushed myself harder than I should have; I got sick more often than I should have. I made terrible financial decisions, and I brought a lot–A LOT–of hard times upon myself…but not all them came by my own hand.

I loved (love) Jesus, and I wanted to serve Him. I wanted to reach out to people, to work with teenagers and junior-highers, and to eventually parlay that into a writing career. I didn’t really have a career trajectory, but I knew I wanted to work in the public speaking circuit. More than anything I knew I wanted to be a wife and a mother, which really played to the whole, “get your MRS. Degree” stereotype that every woman heard as she went through Bible college. None of us, of course, could ever hope to make it in ministry without a husband, didn’t you know that?

So, I got a boyfriend.

That was a mistake.

Between the emotional intensity of being 18-19, the lack of maturity, and the understanding that as a woman, I was automatically an inferior being, I was not prepared for the level of temptation that came with autonomous free time and a boyfriend at that age. I made some bad decisions. When I tried to rectify those decisions, my right to decide was taken away from me, and after that point, I knew God didn’t want me anymore.

I didn’t want me, either.

Wouldn’t you think that in a Bible college, a woman would have solace in knowing there would be someone she could identify with? Someone she could talk to, someone she could pray with? Doesn’t God have forgiveness and healing for all of us, not just for men? Nope.

I had no one, and I was nothing.

Although I never came forward with my story, I knew of 2 other girls that had similar situations happen with a guy. One actually had the bravery to come forward, and the shame she endured from leadership is TEXTBOOK for what NOT to do. Since my college years at that “fine” establishment, I know of a professor who was terminated because he dared to speak up about the inappropriateness and lack of proper reporting amongst students and faculty, and has basically been blacklisted because of his willingness to take on the topic. I know of at least 10 other people, men and women, who have endured sexual inappropriateness and harassment at this same institution, yet the school itself refuses to acknowledge any incorrect behaviors, responses, or situations that have repeatedly been reported to them, and has in fact taken great pains to silence them. Taking the time-tested path to “sweep things under the rug” seems to be their modus operandi; I’m assuming their Bible takes Luke 8:17 and chucks it right out the window.

There is something to be said for the simple acknowledgement that a wrong has occurred. There is something to be said for the basic acceptance that “bad things have happened,” and “we failed to respond, we failed to acknowledge, and we failed to provide a place of healing in an institution based on the very grace of a loving God.” 

The level of sexual harassment I endured on campus over the course of 4 years would not be tolerated today. I know this, because I’m current on my Annual Title IX Training (which, at last check, my alma mater does not require…but they sure do appreciate those government dollars for student loans and grants, don’t they?). It was common for women to be shamed for ANY kind of dress, thought or words deemed to be sexual, but for the guys? It was practically honored. The girls were actually subjected to an entire evening of “well, we’ve heard rumors of sexual activity,” that was nothing more than an attempt to get us to rat out our friends, and an overwhelming reminder that impure thoughts and behaviors meant that we were unlovable and terrible human beings. We were shamed for even THINKING about sex, and if we’d already had it?!? OMG, we may as well surrender any thoughts, hopes, or dreams we could ever have, because we were “Damaged Goods.” It was purity at the cost of hope, and more than a few of us lost both.

So much for being a “place of healing.”

I’ve been working on a series of blogs this summer about the “Pesky Umbrella Graphic” which firmly places women at the bottom of the totem pole of the Good Christian Family. My goal is to redefine this graphic, and place men and women in the roles God designed. I have one blog left to write, about the Role of a Woman in the Church, and it’s been simmering. I believe this blog had to come first–I had to get this out of my system, because for me, my role as a woman was never so undermined as it was over the course of 4 years in Bible college. It took 4 years to wreck who I was as a person, as a Christian, and as a woman; it took 13 years to heal, to hope, and to have a clearer understanding that as a woman, Jesus loves me, He understands me, and He sees me as relevant, with all of my hormones, emotions, and crazy detours that paint anything but the “perfect” Christian life.

My Annual Title IX Training is often referred to (by me) as our Annual “Don’t Be a Terrible Human Being” Training. I think we take it for granted that people understand that sexual inappropriateness of any kind is wrong, but we have people in national leadership and in Christian leadership that consistently prove us to be incorrect. People don’t understand inappropriate sexual behavior. Now, I could launch a diatribe on how the media takes a turn on this; how the rampant rise and access to pornography takes a turn on this, and how being scientifically reduced to molecular accidents takes a turn on this, but that’s an entirely other conversation. The reality is that EVERYONE needs annual training on abuse, discrimination, sexual inappropriateness and how to report it, how to respond to it, and how to understand that IT’S NOT OKAY.

It’s not okay for “no” to mean anything other than, “no.”

It’s not okay to make the “joke” or the inference.

It’s not okay to make women feel inferior. It’s not okay to discriminate against anyone, and it’s not okay to make someone feel differently or to be robbed of opportunities because of their gender, religion, skin color, race, or orientation.

Your (My) Christianity does not give you a “Get out of Jail Free” or a “Bypass” card. Your (MY) Christianity does not give you the right to play judge or jury to that person who comes to you, or to that person that is reporting an issue.

Your (MY) Christianity requires that you treat people with honor, integrity, and respect. ALLLLLL of these verses tell us how to treat people. NONE of these verses tell us to shame someone or to throw a blanket over bad things and act like they didn’t happen.

Above all, your (MY) Christianity tells us that our Father is close to the brokenhearted…that He is a strong tower, that He is a refuge, and that HE LOVES US.

For me, Bible college should have been a place of spiritual growth and encouragement. Instead, it became a place of private shame and hopelessness, and to be honest, I do not look back on a most of those years with fondness (although I’m grateful for the relationships with friends that I still maintain). Bible college was where I learned how to pretend that everything was fine, even as it was falling apart. It was where I learned to speak fluent “Christianese,” and where I learned that Jesus was not big enough to love me through my darkest days.

In the years that followed, I went through an intensive breaking process of learning to be very, very real in my relationship with God . It’s an ongoing process, and one I think I’ll always work on. I also went through a healing process that involved counseling (the first of several encounters with counseling that I’ve been through) with a pastor who was AMAZING. He restored my faith in church leadership and in the compassion of Jesus, and I’ll never forget him. I was directed to him by a professor at my Bible college, who was overseeing an internship that ended halfway through–it almost cost me my college degree, but that’s another story. Either way, between that professor and that pastor, they saved my life physically and spiritually, and they became the light at the end of the Bible college tunnel. They had the concept RIGHT–Biblical counsel and healing, and GRACE over shame–and they were a blessing. I’m still grateful. They showed me there could be good, kind men in Christian leadership, and I needed that hope restored. T

I know this is a lot; I know I’ve written a lot more than I intended, but the Annual Title IX Training has “bothered” me for the past 7 years that I’ve been required to take it. Where was this training when I was in college? Would it have saved me, or saved the 10 or more other people that I know of? Would it have saved our professor, who gave up his career in order to speak a truth that no one wanted to listen to? Would it have saved the others who never told their stories?

I don’t know.

I’m not upset that I “have” to take this training. I’m not upset that we’re creating a Culture of Compliance over a Climate of Fear or a Climate of Shame or a Culture of Arrogant Ignorance. The more Christians that stop thinking they’re above all of this stuff, and instead choose to engage the fact that we’re all sinners, we all struggle, and we all need grace, the less stories we’ll hear about places like Willow Creek, or the Catholic Church issues (which could be in ANY church), or whatever. The second we think we’re immune is the second we fall…it’s time that we all acknowledge our weaknesses, that we train to be aware of situations, and that we as Christians provide a place of healing and of hope, particularly in our areas of educational institutions for children and adults of all ages.

***Edit: I’ve had a few remarks on my Facebook post on this blog, and I just want to say that college was a long, long, LOOOOOONNNNNNG time ago. What I thought was the hardest time in my life was a cakewalk compared to losing my daughter, so I’m looking back at those experiences through completely different lenses. In fact, the breaking/building process I went through after college laid the grounds for a solid foundation for that very journey. It was an entirely different breaking/building process, but the foundation was tried and true. 🙂 My entire point in bringing up those years is to draw attention to the lack of care and the lack of change that’s been seen in places of so-called Christian education. NOTHING has changed–NOTHING. That’s wrong. Secular universities like the one I am employed by have moved farther and higher than religious institutions, and that boggles my mind. I’m not a broken or hurting college kid, anymore. I’m a grown woman, I know who I am in Christ, and I BELIEVE with all of my heart that the Church is failing in the areas of training their leadership to guard their sheep. I will definitely admit to being angry…Every time another story comes across my Facebook page where another person in ministry has hurt or abused someone, I’m reminded of how far we have to go in the journey to educate Church leadership, to educate those in places of Christian education, and to educate ourselves how to be wise and to be aware…I’m reminded that shame never helped a soul, and that the basis of our very faith is gentleness, respect, and love. We have a long, long way to go…and we are all–not just me, and not just you–responsible to make the necessary changes.

For the Love of a Dog…

DSC06347

Once upon a time, in late November of 2005, a fluffy, shy, drooly cuddlebug came to be a part of our family. David had told me from as early in our dating life as I can remember, that he’d always wanted a boxer…so, he found one that was much smaller than most boxers, and she became ours.
I’d only had a cat (which I adored) and a dog (which my dad adored), and birds (which were never mine). I didn’t know what to do with an indoor dog, or such a “fancy” dog (She’s AKC registered, I mean, c’mon!!!). I didn’t know anything about walking them or training them, & I wasn’t even sure I wanted a dog, but I figured she’d be good practice for whenever we decided to try to have children (we had no idea how THAT was going to work out).
I fell in love.
DavidWCooley Photography 024
David studied The Dog Whisperer (Cesar Millan) religiously. Our house was filled with too much dog hair, too much slobber, and the sound of “tschhhht!” reverberating off of the walls.
She ate my cookbooks, my shoes, and had separation anxiety issues that we weren’t counting on…but we made it work.
She ate the bottom out of more kennels than I can count…which gets expensive.
She chewed every dog toy I bought her into tiny crumbs (except for the black Kong. Get it.).
She stayed on my lap or laid on my stomach every day…until one day, my stomach started to kick her…and eventually, she didn’t have any room to lay down…
And then Mommy disappeared for a few weeks.
When we brought our daughter home, she didn’t know what to think of the tiny, hairless being that Mommy & Daddy loved so much…but she knew how Mommy cried when that little person didn’t come home anymore…and she stayed with me through countless tears and breakdowns.
DSC00500 (My family hates this picture. I was pretty mad about it…but I’m so glad I have it. Thanks, David.)
Holly was definitely impacted by Hannah’s death…her separation anxiety worsened, and her need to be directly under my feet became problematic. I got annoyed…but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Boxers tend to live around 7-10 years.  When Holly hit the 7-year mark, she gained a bunch of weight, and then her hips went out. We found out that first of all, she had a thyroid problem…which in retrospect, I find hilarious.
IMG_20170704_115621_620
We knew things were off, so we visited a few vets, and found out that our girl needed a ridiculously-expensive surgery: Bilateral TPLO. I don’t remember all of the ins-&-outs, but she basically needed her legs cut open and the bones reworked, along with a bunch of screws, pins, and other such things, to the tune of around $7,000-10,000 that we. Did. Not. Have.
Because of her temperament, we were able to find a surgeon that did both surgeries for both legs, at the same time. That’s unheard of, in a bully breed or in a dog of her size. She made it through the procedure without complications; I was scared to death, and brought her chicken from Qdoba almost every night that she was in the hospital. 🙂
And then we found out that Holly was about to have a brother!!!
10151644908713070
It took Holly a solid 6 months to warm up to Jericho, and to be honest, she wasn’t terribly fond of him. Granted, we were terrible dog-parents; we were working full-time, and still hadn’t gotten into a routine of making sure she had her thyroid medicine. Speaking from a different place of understanding, now I KNOW how important that medication is!! Once we had her in a regular routine, she began to tolerate Jericho quite nicely. 🙂 He makes her nervous…but he sure does love her!
Capture
Holly followed me around incessantly…I had absolutely no personal space, and I was really starting to get aggravated with her….but then came my diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Once my surgery and my medication started doing their jobs, her need to be in my face and under my feet seemed to decrease. I’m pretty convinced she knew I was sick, before I or anyone else knew. She’s pretty darn smart.
When David isn’t home, Holly will go ballistic on anyone who comes to the door. She’s been a fierce defender for Jericho & I, and even though I’ve only had to “sic” her on someone once or twice, I know that no matter how old she gets, SHE WILL TEAR SOMEONE APART on cue. 🙂 I like that about her. I didn’t train her to be a security dog…but I didn’t have to.
Our girl is quite old…we’re reminded of that every time someone asks how old she is, and we tell them, and they look at us like we’re crazy: “She’s REALLY OLD for a BOXER, isn’t she?!?!?!?”
Well, yes.
Yes, she’s old.
She’s losing her hearing and control of her bladder (that sucks, BTW. I’m going to buy stock in Resolve.). She’s crabbier, but she still defends me to the teeth (not that she has many left), and she still likes to “hug” me when I try to go upstairs (she runs one step ahead, and gets on her hind legs to put her paws on my shoulders). She still lets me do her nails, and she misses being allowed to get on the couch (it’s a new couch).
She loves her Daddy.
Japanese Garden and Georgetown 020
And she definitely, definitely, loves ME.

IMG_20171111_173544_710

She’s an amazing dog, and an amazing soul…I believe all dogs go to Heaven. I mean, how could something love you like that…and I do believe it’s love…and not be allowed to return to their Maker? God blessed us when He gave us animals to love…

She’s been my very, very best friend…she’s been a dog I needed, even though I never knew just how much I’d need someone like her.

Holly pictures 001

She’s in my heart, and I am forever grateful for the day David called me and said, “I got a dog.”

Officially, she’s “Christmas’ Holly Golightly.”

Unofficially, she’s “Miss Stink,” “OooohGetOffaMeYou’reGross,” “$%&*%$&!!!!,” and a few other unmentionable names. 🙂

10151644916128070

She’s a Good Dog, and I wish she could read…I wish she could know just how grateful we are for her….and how we are changed for the better, because of the Love of a Dog.

Screenshot_20170904-095428

Happy 13th birthday, Holly. You’re a Very Good Dog, and we love you!

IMG_20180903_163745_418

Limbo…

Two years ago, I posted a status update that I was basically cancer-free.

cancerfree
Before you read any further, please note that I’m not saying that I’m not cancer-free. THIS IS NOT A POST TO SAY THAT MY CANCER HAS RETURNED, so please don’t worry. 🙂
It’s actually a post to say that now they’re telling me it may have never really gone away.
Nobody seems to know the real answer to that question.
I’m posting this not as a means of being dramatic or whiny, but because it’s indicative of how confusing the medical industry can be…I’ve been working in healthcare for 18 years, and have had a complicated medical history, yet with all of that, the terminologies and explanations that healthcare providers give can be very misleading…
At this appointment, I was made to believe that I was done with this whole cancer thing…I even looked at my doctor and asked, “So, does this mean I’m done here?” He said, “Yes, but we’ll still need to see you every 6 months for ultrasounds. Cancer-wise, though, you’re in the clear.” I knew at that time that thyroid cancer, particularly when it’s as complicated as mine was, has a high chance of a recurrence, and that stays in the back of one’s mind.
So, here we are, 3 years after my initial diagnosis, and I’ve been a good girl; I’ve taken my meds, gone to Barnes every 6 months, and had my ultrasounds. I’ve dutifully supplied my blood tests on time, and I religiously maintain a spreadsheet of my results. My lymph nodes in my neck have finally started to shrink, and that’s a positive change since my biopsy in January of this year (when they actually suspected that I might have lymphoma, which was terrifying; turns out that I was still dealing with the after-effects of having mono the summer before). However, I continue to have something called, “residual activity” that shows up on my ultrasounds. It showed up on my PET scan in 2016, and it’s never actually resolved. So, how can I be told that I’m “cancer free,” when in fact. that’s not necessarily accurate? There should be NOTHING in my thyroid bed, yet there’s that stupid thing, boppin’ around on my ultrasound. I don’t have cancer, according to my labs…BUT my labs never said I had cancer in the first place–that’s the anomaly of my particular case of thyroid cancer. I never registered as having cancer, via labwork or biopsy, even though the cancer cells broke through the capsule and went into my lymph nodes. We didn’t know I actually had cancer until I was in the process of having my thyroid removed, when the surgeon biopsied me on the table. Now, however, according to my surgeon and the ultrasound (AKA, “anatomical scan”), I’m not totally clear, and I’ll need to see my oncologist again for follow-up scans (functionality scans, AKA, another PET scan).
I know everything is fine, but you mention the word, “oncologist” to me, and my anxiety skyrockets. I’m not sure why it freaks me out so much; I’d rather never see an oncologist again. Thyroid cancer is a SUPER-slow growing cancer, so even if my tests are positive or questionable, I really have nothing to worry about. It’s just a stupid mind-game, and I hate how it affects me (and everyone I care about).
When we lived in Kentucky, I had an accident with Holly, and wound up tearing a tendon in my wrist. I didn’t COMPLETELY tear the tendon, and as a result, instead of a simple surgery to repair the damage, I had 6 weeks in a cast, 6 weeks in a brace, and 12 weeks of physical therapy. Something relatively simple became extremely complicated; what sounds like the better version of the injury was actually worse than the reality (Partial tear vs. Complete tear). I feel like thyroid cancer is like that. It’s the “good” kind of cancer–it’s “easily” treated. You remove the thyroid, and we’re good, right? Not really…My dad had a kind of cancer where they removed it all with surgery, and everything was fine–no meds, no radiation, and no chemo. You’d think that thyroid cancer was like that, based on the whole, “just remove the mass and the thyroid” thing. No one talks about the chances of recurrence, the residual activity, and the extreme difficulty in balancing the medication that replaces your thyroid. No one tells you about all of things that are affected by your thyroid–the energy levels, the hormones, the immune system (in my case, because of lymphatic involvement). They don’t tell you that when you catch a basic cold, you’d better call your doctor, because it’s gonna mutate and turn into bronchitis or pneumonia or whatever, because your immune system’s compromised. I just started my 3rd or 4th round of antibiotics this year, and my 2nd round of steroids…over a dang COLD.
My nervousness/drama over the thought of additional testing/seeing the oncologist is admittedly stupid. I’m being WAY overly dramatic, especially when I think about all of the people I know who have dealt with “real” cancers…the ones that require multiple rounds of chemo and radiation, the ones that incapacitate people and take lives…Thyroid cancer is often treated by the medical community as the “good” kind of cancer, so the issues that we deal with are not treated with the seriousness or compassion that I believe they should entail.  Thyroid cancer is, by definition, “easy” to treat in comparison to every other kind of cancer, based on the previously stated premise that you just remove the organ, give the patient a replacement med, and send them on their merry way. It’s not like I’ve had a breast removed or lost a kidney…I’m not visibly scarred (unless you know where to look).  I didn’t lose my hair (well, I did, but no one really noticed, and it’s all grown back). My issues have all had to do with regulating the thyroid replacement medication, and that’s a process that will go on for the rest of my life. If I gain weight (huge struggle) or if I lose weight (ha!), the dosages have to be recalibrated. Right now, I’m actually medically slightly hyperthyroid, but the consequences of re-calibrating the medication are worse than dealing with the effects of being hyperthyroid (sleeplessness/heat intolerance/anxiety) so we leave it as is for now.
Ask anyone in my family, and they will tell you that my life after having the “good” kind of cancer is very different from my life before.
My son will never know the Mommy that existed prior to 2015, when I had issues, but I also had energy, and I could go outside in the summer and not feel like I was going to pass out (I thought I was heat-intolerant before this, because of my heart. This is another level). He tells my husband that he wants to “take Mommy home, so we can go to the park.” That hurts, I’m not going to lie.
But I’m being stupid. Aren’t just supposed to shut up and be grateful that I got the “good” kind of cancer?
REALLY?
I very rarely let my brain go down the rabbit hole of “why is this happening to me?” I’ve found that’s a very dangerous place to go, and I’ve learned to stifle that fire with a blanket of blind faith and self-control, per the whole, “blessed are they that have not seen, but have believed” verse in John 20:29. I could list the things David & I have been through that I just don’t get, but what point would it prove? We’ve been through hell? Yeah, but so has everyone to some extent. Everyone has their own definition of the worst thing they’ve been through, and my worst isn’t your worst, but that doesn’t mean one is worse than the other–who makes that judgement call? Life isn’t about comparing my life to yours, or your life to Kim Kardashian’s. Life is about doing all that we can to give glory to God in every situation. If the Apostle Paul can do it, so can we.
So, I try to avoid the “why, God, why?!?” Nancy Kerrigan-isms of my life. My life is GOOD!!!!  I love my life! And I’m not defined by this stupid cancer thing, but it does take up an inordinate amount of space in my psyche, particularly when I’m told that I have to go back to oncology and have additional scans in the next 6 months (they’re not in a hurry. That’s the perks of having the “good” kind of cancer. Nothing has to be rushed, which is cool, even though my brain says, “DO IT NOWWWW!!!!” I can wait until my FSA has renewed, LOL). I’ve been pretty whiny with God all week (when I’ve even spoken with Him–I’ve been so dang sick that I’ve barely prayed, which is embarrassing to admit). I did actually say to Him on Wednesday that “I just don’t understand why I get hit will all of this $hit (I’m not gonna fake Him out with some kind of churchy-fake lingo)!!!” And as soon as I said it, I’m like, “Eh, never mind.” I don’t really need to know the definition. Grace tells me it’s not a punishment. Grace tells me that we live in a fallen world full of crappy chemicals and emissions, of hormone-affecting toxins and atmospheric garbage that affects all of us in different ways.
Grace also tells me that regardless of the confusing definitions and my internal/external comparisons, that the bottom line is that it will all be okay. Grace tells me to stop being afraid of words like, “oncology,” and to start saying things like, “stop being a stupid worry-wart, and chill the heck out.” 🙂 (Okay, Grace doesn’t say that. Mom says that, LOL. I love her. Everyone needs someone in their life to cut through their crap, and that’s my mom. She’s like a younger Judge Judy with a penchant for wedding-based reality TV). Seriously, though, Grace says that this is one more bump/hill/mountain in the road, and regardless of what happens, I’ll get through the other side of it. It really, truly is not serious, and it’s only because of the “C” word that it seems so scary. My surgeon actually once said that thyroid cancer shouldn’t even really be termed as a cancer, because it’s such a slow-growing, minor thing to deal with, and that word is so complicated and fearful. I tend to agree with him, even though I know that trivializes something with major consequences.
Seeing an oncologist is actually just part of regular follow-up care for any kind of cancer. I probably should have seen her a year ago, but because things were so well-maintained at my visits with my surgeon and my endocrinologist, it wasn’t brought up. In fact, my endocrinologist isn’t particularly concerned at this point, and I don’t have to see him for a year (yay!). Oncology is routine, even though in MY brain, seeing an oncologist isn’t routine for ANYONE.
Like I said a few (okay, a LOT of) paragraphs earlier, this post is not to say that my cancer has returned…or that it ever reallllly went away. It’s just showing how confusing the medical industry can be (“you’re cancer-free! Oh, wait, you have activity—oh, wait, it’s not enough to worry about—oh, wait, go see the oncologist–but you’re fine!”), and the emotional roller-coaster that goes along with it. I am fine–believe me, I’m as fine as I get. My levels are well-maintained, and if you don’t count the bronchitis/respiratory garbage I keep getting every few months, my energy levels are good. I’m doing a heck of a lot better than a lot of people I read about on my “Life After Thyroidectomy” forum on Facebook!  Hoooo, those Facebook Groups!!!! “I stubbed my toe! It’s because I had a thyroidectomy!!!!! I hate my doctor!!!!” It gets DRAMATIC…and I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of entertaining. It helps me find out what I really need to be concerned about, and clears up a LOT of myths, particularly when I review some of the stuff with my endocrinologist.
Whether I do or don’t have a recurrence of this garbage, everything is fine, and it’s all going to be okay. Even though the thought of something as routine as a follow-up visit with an oncologist is scary to me, I know it’s a good thing to do. Ultrasounds can only tell doctors so much, and additional testing is a good thing. I just have to get over myself and the mental hang-up I have with that word. I don’t see myself as a “cancer survivor,” because of the type of cancer I have; however, I believe we probably all share a similar fear/anxiety of having to see an oncologist, and of the ensuing tests. It is part of the process we all deal with, regardless of the type of cancer. The mental aspects of the terminology are just as emotionally difficult as the physical processes, which is something I think healthcare would do well to address.
Any additional testing I have done will most likely not happen until next year (the perks of “non”-cancer cancers), so I’m probably not going to post anything else regarding my status until then. For me, just writing all of this out has been helpful; only so much can be said in phone calls and 10-minute conversations with spouses. Blogging is my way of having uninterrupted communication, so it’s completely selfish, and I’m not sorry. 🙂 If you’ve stuck with me this far, well, good on ya’, mate! 🙂
This is all just part of the process. And it’s okay. I’ve never been good at any kind of waiting, and I’ve wanted everything to be over and done with for the last 3 years. I’m not really getting that, and I’m not good at not getting what I want. I want closure. It’s not happening. It’s a bizarre kind of limbo.
I’ve never been particularly good at that game. 🙂

“Out of the mouths of babes….”

You guys, God blew up my brain this morning. Like, He shattered me in the best of ways…..I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out:

In the morning, I have about a 45-minute commute. I like quiet in the mornings. My drive is usually where I try to get focused, I pray, and I listen. This morning, I had just finished praying the intro (LOL–by “the intro,” I mean the Lord’s Prayer. I start every day with that. Long story. Good enough for Jesus, good enough for me.) and I was thinking about my son. I was thinking about how he’s said a couple of times lately that he wants to be baptized. Now, he’s 5–I’m pretty sure he’s not ready yet, but it’s on the table. I was 9 when I became a Christian and was water-baptized, so I firmly believe that kids can know what they’re doing.

We pray with him every night. I want my son to know that God is real, that He is listening, and that we don’t have to fake anything with Him. Jericho’s prayers are really, really cute, and I believe that he prays with intention. David has been AMAZING at working with him on Bible verses (I highly recommend Pixie Paper on Amazon; we purchased superhero-themed prints with Bible verses on them, and Jericho’s been learning them since he was 3. “Green Lantern verse!” “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light onto my path!” “Captain America verse!” “Jesus is the Captain of my Salvation!”), and he’s been learning them at school. Image result for jesus is the captain of my salvation

Watching a child develop their own faith is fascinating.

As parents, we have to be careful of a trap that I have found myself in: Don’t disregard the strength of their prayers because they’re cute.

I was driving into work, thinking about how Jericho had jumped at the opportunity to pray over my family’s Father’s Day meal. It was a simple prayer, full of thanksgiving, and one I really didn’t put much stock into, because let’s face it: I have a really cute kid, and it’s cute when kids pray.

I was, of course, happy that he WANTED to pray (my mother was verklempt, LOL), but I didn’t really think too much more of it beyond the general pride I felt that MY KID PRAYS. Outside of that, it was adorable, and we go on with our day.

Image result for verklempt meme

God feels differently.

I felt Him whisper to me this morning as I merged onto 270: “His prayers are REAL.”

My brain exploded like a firework. If I could have stopped my car and pulled over, I would have.

He kept going–it all rushed in: “His prayers are real, his heart is pure, and I AM LISTENING. All of Heaven is listening when a kid prays. His prayers have stock in them, just as yours do. Age doesn’t matter. I listen. Nothing he says is in vain; all of Heaven takes note. It’s written down. Jericho’s prayers are HEARD.”

So much for my mascara this morning.

How dare I sit back and write them off as a novelty?!?!?!?!?!?

The prayers of our children are heard in the heavenlies!!!!!!!!!!

I came into work, and turned on Bethel worship from a few Sundays ago. I picked it based on the screenshot of the worship leader, who I hadn’t heard before (Sean Feucht), and Pastor Bill Johnson was doing the intro. What he said made me stop in my tracks, and open up this blog to write all of this down:

Psalms 8:2:
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. (NIV)

Mr. Johnson went on to read a paraphrase of a few more verses of the chapter (hit the video at the 4:32 marker):

“You have built a stronghold, a dwelling place of strength, from the songs of babies. YOU HAVE BUILT A FORTRESS FROM THE SONGS OF BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!  Strength rises up from a chorus of babies. This kind of praise has the power to shut Satan’s mouth. Childlike worship will silence the madness of those that oppose you.”

I have never, EVER read this verse like this. I’ve never seriously considered the power or strength of the prayers of a child. I’ve said, “oh, sure, that’s adorable, it’s good to teach kids to pray,” etc., but it’s never impacted me like it has this morning. Between what God whispered in my ear on my commute, and a different interpretation/paraphrase of a verse I’ve heard 1,000 times, my world is rocked this morning, and I am renewed in my prayers of gratitude for my son in my life. That boy is a gift and a blessing who has taught me more about God than in almost any other time in my life. He keeps me reliant on the Lord, and he keeps me committed to renew my faith every single day. Today is just one more example of the lessons God has taught me through Jericho…

You guys, how amazing, that the Creator of the universe stops in His tracks to hear the prayers of a child…that the prayers of the least of these matter to our Savior. Our prayers are never just a novelty act; He never writes them off because we’re who we are. He’s listening, and He’s not just listening–He’s looking forward to our conversations. He’s engaged with us as His Beloved. Jesus truly loves us so much more than we can know, and it’s a joy to belong to Him…it’s a joy to get to parent with the influence of His kindness…it’s a joy to be loved by Him…

 

Part Three: Redefining Family Structure in the Church, AKA, “This is Man’s World.”

(Okay, let’s be honest: I can’t say the phrase, “This is a Man’s World,” without thinking of Christina Aguilera’s best performance of her lifetime. She did a tribute to James Brown at the Grammys several years ago, and KILLED it. So, now THAT’s in my head. Squirrel!!!)

This is a series that started as a response to the Pesky Umbrella Graphic (PUG):Natural-Order-of-The-Family

For the first blog post, I started  with what I  feel is the most important part: Jesus as the Song of Solomon bridegroom, as the One Who leads us to the banqueting table in celebration with a Banner over us…”His banner over me is love.” If you haven’t read it yet, take a second and go back to it.

I did a follow-up blog on marriage, and parts of it might have sounded more like it was about reasons NOT to get married (totally not my intention, LOL): Mawwiage

Marriage is tricky. Going into it with crazy, Disney-expectations is setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Image result for disney romantic coupleI’m not trying to rain on your parade; we’re all humans, and we’re terrifically flawed. Even under the banner of Jesus’ love, we make mistakes and we lose sight of our goals. We hurt each other, but the beauty of it all is that we learn to forgive, and we learn to grow together. It’s a lifelong process that requires incredible tenacity and faith.

So, for today, I’m going to discuss the role of the husband in this blog. This gets delicate because if you haven’t figured it out, I’m married. 🙂IMG_20180404_182209_201 I’m also EXTREMELY difficult to be married to (but hey, I have my good points). We were once told that 80% of couples who have lost a child, divorce, regardless of faith. That statistic has been proven to be false, but when you have that information hanging over your head and you’ve been through hell, it adds some extra challenges. Our marriage has been through more than anyone will ever know, but 13 years in, I’d say we’re successful in maintaining our relationship, SOLELY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

Did I mention I’m difficult to be married to? Oh, and don’t get it twisted–David’s not the easiest thing in the world, LOL. He’s generally pretty great, but ask me about cabinet doors and cereal bowls….

I don’t want anyone to think that when I describe the role of a husband in a marriage, that I am disparaging or focusing on my husband unless I say so. Don’t put thoughts in your brain that shouldn’t be there. 🙂 I really do have a great man in my life, and the ratio of things that bug me verses the incredible qualities he has, is completely disproportionate. 🙂 I won.

So, let’s go back to the PUG, okay? Image result for cute pug

 

Ah, there’s that HUSBAND, lording over everyone else, burdened with being both the spiritual leader, the provider, and loving like Christ loves the church…

Capture3

See, this is why we have to start disassembling this graphic by changing it from an Umbrella to a Banner. To hearken back to my original blog in this series, Jesus is over our family as a banner of victory, a banner of recognition, a banner of declaration that screams out the Love of God like a megaphone across the heavenlies. He shouts His love for us in the face of the accusations of the Enemy, in the face of the temptations that come our way…That banner is everything; whereas an umbrella will only shield you from the elements, a banner carries the mark of the King! We have this amazing declaration over our household that WE ARE LOVED uncontrollably, without human understanding! We are covered in grace and dripping in mercy, and where we walk as a family, we leave a trail of the fruits of the Spirit. That’s the goal.

And there’s Mr. Right: There’s the Husband of the Household.

Is he a dictator? A lord? King of the house? Ruler of all? Is he a doormat that a contentious wife stomps all over (ouch, occasionally guilty)?

No, and if he’s playing the role like any of those descriptions, he’s out of line with the direction of the Lord.

I like this quote from Family Life:

“Head” does not mean male dominance, where a man lords it over a woman and demands her total obedience to his every wish and command. God never viewed women as second-class citizens. His Word clearly states that we are all equally His children and are of equal value and worth before Him. As Galatians 3:28 tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The teaching of the New Testament clearly shows that women are to be respected, revered, and treated as equals with men. Unfortunately, many husbands have not gotten the message. They degrade their wives by neglect or with insensitive and abusive treatment. One cause of the feminist movement may have been that men abandoned God’s design. When God presented Eve to Adam in the Garden, Adam received her as a gift of great value to God and to himself. When husbands, particularly Christian husbands, do not treat their wives as a precious gift from God and helpmate, they can cause those wives to search for ways to find significance and value as persons, often outside God’s will.

The PUG gives men 3 responsibilities, so I’m going to address each one:

  • Spiritually Lead the Family
    • We live in a society that has categorically undermined the authority of men and the structure of family in the media for the past 30 years. I’m 40, so I’ve had a front-row seat to this destruction. Shows like, “Married With Children,” “The Simpsons.” and the original “Rosanne” all painted pictures of men being basic morons, and the wives being the brains of the family. It was a huge departure from the shows of the 1950’s and 60’s that seemed to emphasize family. Men are now the brunt of every joke and have no authority whatsoever, in the name of comedy. I believe that issues such as sexual harassment, and abuse, are on the rise partially resulting from this oppression of the leadership role men are supposed to be in. They’re undermined and disrespected by women and children, so they retaliate with terrible behaviors (speaking broadly, of course). They’re designed to be respected, and they’re gonna get it one way or another, by golly, even if it’s by force!  Maybe that’s a stretch, but if a man is treated the way he should be treated, and if he’s locked in spiritually the way he should be, walking in the love of Jesus, there’s balance. Our world is miserably OUT of balance; men are mistreated, and are reacting by behaving badly.  I will say however, on the flip side of this, that the mistreatment of women by men most likely caused them to be portrayed as morons, so it’s a cycle of bad examples, poor leadership, and retaliation. If we carried ourselves with the balance that God created men and women to carry, NONE of this would be an issue.
    • Okay, so he’s supposed to lead the family in spiritual ways. …but that’s also something we all have to work together on. We’re not supposed to be unequally yoked, right? We’re supposed to be partners in fulfilling this mission to raise Godly children:  Deuteronomy 6:7 says that we are to “impress [the commandments] on our children; Talk about them when you sit at home, & when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”  It doesn’t say “Fathers Only–do this.” It’s for ALL of us to do…
    • So, what does it mean to “spiritually lead?”
      • First of all, we all stand before God ALONE. When I die, David’s spiritual walk will have no bearing on how my walk with Jesus is judged. So, I’m responsible for how I spiritually lead our son. Am I instructing our son in God’s Word? Am I teaching him biblical concepts and Scriptures? Am I doing everything I can to pray for him, and to set him in the direction that Jesus would have me set him in? Spiritual leadership is just that: Using personal examples and teachable moments, combined with prayer, to direct the household in walking in the will of God. It’s having a life dedicated to pursing Jesus, and in sharing that pursuit with those around you.  My husband has the same responsibility to do that, as I do–one of us is not more responsible to live a godly life than the other.
      • Spiritual leadership for a husband, like leadership over the family, involves biblical submission for a woman (ooooooooh, we hate that word!! “Submission?!?!?!” NOOOOO!) For women, this means that we stay respectful, even when we disagree with the direction he’s taking us. It means we listen, we pray, and we stay open to suggestions. It doesn’t mean that he’s abusive or an authoritarian. It means we give him the chance to explain where he’s coming from; it means we pray about it, we search our hearts, and we see where we stand with the result. If your husband is trying to lead you, spiritually, in a direction you know is wrong, I say stand your ground and pray that God changes his heart. Or, pray that if you’re wrong, that God will change your heart.
      • Example: Around 7 years ago, David & I were at a crossroads. I was on the worship team at a larger church, and had “commitment.” David had never really felt like he fit in, and just wasn’t getting fed spiritually in a way that he needed to. He wanted to find a different church, and he knew where he wanted us to go (did I mention that he originally picked THIS church, shortly after we got married?). He wanted to make a significant change, and I was NOT having it. It took a year of praying on both of our parts, independently (I know, we should have prayed together), for God to change my heart and get the understanding that YES, we needed to leave that church. It was time. The craziest thing (and I’m NOT saying this will happen for everyone; it’s just our story), is that shortly after making that decision in unity, I got pregnant with our miracle baby. When a husband and wife come together in spiritual agreement, radical changes can happen. The Bible says that “one of us can send a thousand to flight, and 2 of us can send a legion fleeing” (Deut. 32:30). Personally, praying together with my husband is challenging for me. It doesn’t come naturally to me, even after 13 years. That doesn’t mean we stop trying, though.
  • Provide for the Family
    • Um, EXCUSE ME? What have I been doing for the past 18 years? What did my mom do for over 20 years? I’m coming at this defensively, because as a working mother, I’ve been seriously hurt by crap people have said about my decision/need to be a working mother. This isn’t 200B.C., people. They need to take that off of the graphic like, NOW. It’s borderline offensive. Welcome to a world where everything costs a fortune and most households cannot survive on one family member’s income. This is 2018, people, and diminishing the contributions of a woman in providing for the family is insulting. We work just as hard, and frankly, stay-at-home moms ALSO work just as hard at providing for the family (I think I read a statistic once that said if a SAHM was paid for the work she does, it would average over $150,000/year). WOMEN. FREAKING. WORK in this world, harder than we have ever had to, and we deserve to be counted as providers for our families. Men shouldn’t have to bear that burden alone in today’s world.
    • I will 100% say that up until the 1950’s, women didn’t have to contribute to household finances to the extent that they now have to. I will say that consumerism, materialism, humanism, and an entire textbook of -isms have contributed to the change in the atmosphere that has resulted in women joining and/or taking over the work force. However, this is how it is NOW, regardless of what was intended in the beginning of Creation, and most of us have children to think about. I’m not sorry that I’m a working woman. I fully recognize the sacrifice that goes into being a SAHM, and it’s not one I feel like our household can make, or that my nature can process.
    • Does the fact that I have to work in order for our lights to stay on, mean my husband is out of God’s Will as a provider for our family? ABSOLUTELY NOT. However, I also believe very firmly that if a woman is working and a man is physically capable of working, then he’d better WORK and not make her shoulder that entire burden alone. I do believe that God created man in His image, and just as He said in the Garden of Eden, they’re to work to provide for their families. Laziness is not a godly quality, no matter how you try to spin it. We’re not made to be a lazy, dependent people; God created both man and woman to be industrious (see Proverbs 31, for the ladies’ version) for provision and for mental well-being. When we do good work, we feel good about ourselves; a man that feels good about himself passes that along to his entire household. 🙂
  • Love Wife like Christ loves the Church
    • This is the third thing the PUG lists (reading L-<R), but it should be the first thing men are responsible to do…leave it to an archaic, misinformed, misogynistic graphic to put the leadership role first, and the loving role last. 🙂
    • HOW DOES CHRIST LOVE THE CHURCH?  Read the Song of Solomon–it lays it all out. In SOS, Jesus is the Groomsman, and we as the Church are the Bride. Read that book, men, and get your action plan on how to love your wife (and please, actually put it into practice. Just reading it won’t do the trick. Preaching to myself…). Here’s some killer resources that will revolutionize your Christianity:
      • International House of Prayer with Mike Bickle. The link takes you to a ton of free downloads.
      • Gateway House of Prayer with Tammy Riddering. Same concepts as the IHOP version, but taught from a woman’s perspective
      • My husband has been studying this for at least 10 years. I’ve just started (again–this is so difficult for me to grasp, but I’m on my like, 3rd try of the in-depth study. I’m a fighter, not a lover). When you just barely, just lightly, start to grasp the love Jesus has for His Church, your brain will explode. And when you think that’s how a husband is to love his WIFE?!?!? BOOM.
    • What does the love of Christ for the Church look like? It’s wholehearted. It’s full. Mike Bickle of IHOP says, “The way the God loves within the fellowship of the Trinity, beloved, here is the glorious thing—it is the only way
      He loves. He cannot love partially. He only loves wholeheartedly. God does not suspend one attribute to exercise another. He does not put love “on hold” when He shows justice. He does not put His holiness “on hold” when He expresses mercy.”

      • I John 4:7-8 says that “God is love.” He’s made up of Love–how is that possible? Bickle says in the same sermon I quoted above that “He always loves in fullness.” He doesn’t love halfway. He doesn’t STOP. He can’t love us anymore than He already does. His love is endless, boundless, and eternal. We can’t run from it. He won’t hide it from us. He doesn’t play games or manipulate it. God. IS. Love.
      • A man can TRY to love like Christ loves the Church, but it’s basically not possible, because we’re flawed. 🙂 It’s not possible without having Jesus at the front/back/middle of the relationship. Jesus is literally the glue that holds a loving marriage together, because He IS Love!
    • A man is to love his wife:
      • Wholeheartedly: Don’t reserve your heart or your feelings.
      • Honestly: Don’t play games or hide truths.
      • Humbly: Recognize your flaws and work together to fill in the gaps. Ask forgiveness when you’re wrong. Don’t be too proud to help; the Bridegroom in SOS is as much of a servant as He is a King.
      • Shamelessly: Don’t embarrass your spouse for the sake of a punchline, and don’t be afraid to be publicly vocal about how much you love each other. Be vocal with compliments, and back them up with action.
      • Compassionately: Egos are fragile. Contentiousness will destroy a marriage and will eat a person’s self-esteem from the inside-out.
      • Demonstratively: You set an example to your family and your friends by how you love each other.
      • Faithfully: This goes for physically, emotionally, and mentally. Cheating is a nasty, complicated parasite that will destroy your life. Whether it’s a physical act of being unfaithful to your spouse, or a lustful act of letting impure things creep into your marriage, you have to get that garbage out before it’s too late.  It is SO HARD to stay pure in this world, for both men and women, but our hearts have to be towards our spouses! If you’re tuned into the will of God and you catch that stuff creeping in (it’s so bad that I’ve had to leave the room for a commercial. RIDICULOUS), you have to get out. It’s a constant discipline to maintain faithfulness and purity, and you have to commit to it daily. It’s not impossible. Men can be faithful. Women can be faithful. Relying on Jesus and being honest with yourself is the only way, because it’s coming at us from every angle today.

As a woman, and as a wife, it’s easy for me to look at the PUG with contempt. After all, it IS 2018, and women are enjoying more freedom and independence than ever before, right? We can be who and what we want; we can hang with the boys and be equals, right? I don’t need a man, right?!?!?!?!?!?

WRONG.

The last blog in this series will cover the roles of women in today’s world, and it’s probably going to be the most challenging for me to write. Like I said in the first blog,  I’m not a feminist; I’m an Equalist. I believe we should be respected equally, paid equally, and treated equally, regardless of gender or race….but to be a woman is a glorious, unique thing, and I think our differences are to be celebrated.

Men carry such a burden. The phrase, “toxic masculinity” has recently become popularized, and to be honest, it makes me nauseous. Men are now being “punished” for being, well, MANLY. I think the definition of “manly” is more than a little distorted in today’s world, so let me take a crack at it:

Being “manly” is not determined by how much Budweiser you can drink, how well you can shoot a gun, or by how quickly you can disassemble an engine.  A man that follows Jesus is to love in fullness, to walk humbly, to seek justice and to give mercy. He has shoulders that carry responsibilities with strength and a heart that seeks the will of God, and he makes that his priority. He protects, he provides, and he works in partnership with his Bride. There is nothing more manly than a guy who leads his family with humility and serves his God wholeheartedly.

In closing (phew!), I’m going to reference a blog I linked to in my first post of this series: The Thistlette. In this blog, the writer keeps the umbrella, but places them on equal footing with mutual submission to Jesus. Although I’m still not a fan of the umbrella itself, I can appreciate how she relocates the relationships out of the hierarchy that the PUG places them in:

Christian Family Hierarchy

We have a responsibility, male and female alike, that we share equally: Love Jesus. Tell the world about Him, and set an example of His love with your life. Raise a family together that does the same. We have different-but-equal responsibilities in the kingdom, and a goal to work towards, together. Setting aside religious misconceptions and walking forward in freedom to further the goals of the Kingdom is what we should all be striving towards, and building families together without judgment is key.

One more section of the PUG to go……..#JustKeepWriting

Shofar….

This piece is a departure from the “norm” for me, but it’s where my heart was moved this week with the passing of someone in our church that had an incredible heart for the Lord, & who understood the spiritual significance of the shofar for God’s people. He & his wife have made an eternal impact on our family in ways we never really explained…or for me, in ways I couldn’t explain.  Our hearts are saddened by his death, but our spirits know he has claimed the reward of being in Heaven with Jesus…For Mark…

I’ve never been one

That likes the sound of a call to war

When the shofar blows

I cower and trust

That other people will

Rise up

And fight the battles on my

Behalf.

After all…

I am weak.

I am only one,

But they are many together,

And I stand on the outside

Looking in…

The shofar blows,

Nine, short blasts…TE’RU’AH

And I run to safety,

Covering my ears because I know

It’s a sound of war

And a sound of beckoning,

Calling me higher to the

Mountains…

But I stay in the peaceful places of

Plenty and comfort,

Knowing before I try that

I will fail.

I’m grateful for those that have answered the call…

That rise up on their knees and fight,

But I am not enough,

So I stay in my

Safe Place…

The shofar blows,

And the warrior responds,

Grabbing a shield to match the armor

He already has on,

Because he is prepared to fight

At any moment’s notice.

The shofar blows,

Three, short blasts…SH’VA’RIM

Blind, oblivious to my own regrets…

I pull the blankets over my head,

Hitting the snooze button

One

More

Time,

Truthfully, annoyed at the

Disturbance.

The shofar blows;

A single, long blast…TE’KI’AH GE’DO’LAH

A shepherd, calling His warrior home in Victory…

Home…what a wonderful word…

A sudden realization…I am shaken

The call to war is

Actually

A call

To rest….

To trust…

To yield…

The warrior is Home, kneeling at the Feet of the

Captain of the Hosts,

Standing in worship,

Realizing the dream of his heart to be in the

Presence

Of the King of Kings…

The son is welcomed home by the Father

With words that echo the deepest wish

That all of His children have:

“Well done,

My good and faithful Servant….”

The shofar blows…

As one soldier lays down his weapons,

I pick them up…

With the sound of the shofar,

I am changed…

I am listening in hope…

It is never too late.

I am only one…

But I can put a thousand to flight…

And we are many together…

The shofar blows…

One loud blastTE’KI’AH

No longer on the outside looking in,

I shake off the blankets and

I stand,

Ready to engage in battle.

No longer satisfied in

The Safe Place…

No longer satisfied with

Covering my ears and trusting in others

To fight

To prepare the Way.

No longer satisfied in the valleys of the place of waiting….

There are mountains to conquer.

The shofar blows

One long blast…TE’KI’AH GE’DO’LAH

Redemption….Joy….Focus….Praise…

And a new journey begins…

shofar-blowing